FIFA lifts ban on friendlies in Iraq
BAGHDAD (AFP) –
FIFA lifted a ban on international football friendlies in Iraqi stadiums on Thursday, permitting matches in Baghdad for the first time since the 2003 US-led invasion, an Iraqi football official said.
World football’s governing body made the decision at a meeting in Switzerland, according to Iraqi Football Association vice president Abdulkhaleq Massud, who added that Iraq’s national team will play a friendly against Syria on Tuesday in the northern city of Arbil.
“We received a preliminary notification from (FIFA) … stating that FIFA permits the partial removal of the ban” thereby allowing international friendlies, Massud told AFP.
“We hope in the future that there will be a complete removal of the ban on all other formal football matches,” he said.
FIFA banned Iraq from holding any international fixtures after a September 2, 2011 World Cup qualifier against Jordan due to the poor administration and organisation surrounding it.
In particular, the match was delayed for 10 minutes because of a power cut, and the stadium appeared to have significantly more spectators than its capacity of 12,400.
Baghdad has also not held any internationally-sanctioned football friendlies since the 2003 invasion, though in 2009, the Iraqi national team faced off against a squad representing the Palestinian Territories.
Iraq’s national team currently plays its home friendlies in Qatar, but began training in Baghdad for the first time since the invasion this month.